I want to memorize the length between the lower curve of your plump bun and the back of your knee. It can’t be more than 3 1/2 inches and then another to your pudgy bare foot. One little lovable chunk of you that will too soon be long and lean like your sister’s. Your voice is elf-like, high pitched, sing-song, curious and amazed at most things you speak to these days. Unless it’s a command to “ho-d you me” “cuddew me” or a sweet whispered “wove you mama.” Then your voice is deep and a bit raspy, possibly a glimpse of you at 12 or 24. Or it’s a scream that accompanies a temper tantrum, full of life, fierce for that one thing you are wanting to have or do with your little strong body that I can barely redirect anymore with any sort of ease. You have more passion and persistence than I have yet to witness in a child and I thank God you are my 4th, 3rd to make it to age 2, because I have far more experience, patience and tolerance for this age of big frustrations for you. I get you though, I see your heart and know how badly you want to live by it and I adore that about you. I pray regularly for the ability to encourage your full fledged self and help you harness your wildness in ways that will serve you well in life. I can be exasperated and at the end of my rope with you and in the very same moment look into your tear filled fierce full brown eyes and be so overwhelmed with love for this full of life child I get to call mine. You’re 2 1/2- delightfully, frustratingly, preciously, lovingly 2 1/2 and I don’t ever want to forget any bit or piece of this time with you.
“Mama, I feel like I haven’t had much time with just you and me lately. Will you read my Pippi Longstocking book with me?” came the invitation from my girl who reads long chapter books within a few hours, has completed the Laura Ingalls Wilder series a few times over now and would choose to cozy up with a book over kicking a ball outside with her little brother any day. Feeling lucky you would ask, I left the chore of the moment, looked past the end of day messes to be tackled, and joined you on the couch where it was quiet, away from a little brother and sister who were upstairs getting ready for bed with Papa, a rare brief moment with just you. I pulled a blanket over us and your head leaned into mine as I started to read where you left off on page 103. When a sound or my trailing tired thoughts cause me to pause, you put a finger to the word I stopped on and I am tempted to ask if you want to be the one to continue. But I can tell you are 3 again, in preschool when you were the last kid to want to leave the reading circle while your teacher read the story of the day. You’re 5, in kindergarten refusing to try and learn to read because it’s far more enjoyable to listen to the story than struggle to sound out syllables. Now you’re 8 and it has come so fast, consuming more literature on your own than we ever have together in our sacred nightly ritual of bedtime stories before prayers and cuddles. There is so much within your mind and world that I am not privy to any longer and I know that will only increase, naturally, as it should, but still I feel a bit left out not knowing so much of your thoughts and stories no matter how much I try to be intentional and ask. So I am feeling nothing less than lucky to be invited into your most favorite past time, a world nearly as magical as this moment with you.
You’re 6 my son, and growing so quickly that your naturally athletic, amazingly coordinated body is a bit clumsier than usual. You bump into corners and misjudge stairs and your tears are the same as when you were 4, so sad and so hurt. I go to comfort you, hold you awkwardly on my 8 months pregnant belly and kiss your hurt places. How much longer will I get to do that and it will help? I appeal to your growing intellect as well with empathic words about your body changing and therefore you naturally get awkward for a while. I am dealing with that too, I say smiling with my big belly, it’s not easy at first when our bodies grow but then we get used to them again. You smile back at me and run off again full speed. Later you take a break from your full-of-energy play and join me in the kitchen on a stool next to the counter where I am doing dishes.
“Mama, is it hard work being a mama by yourself when you have a baby in your belly?” This is the season when your papa works long days, or is gone away for weeks at a time and you are ever the perceptive one. I have been tired, but conscientious about taking time for fun and for rest and building a rhythm that honors all of our growing bodies.
“Sometimes it is, but it is my favorite work I get to do,” I respond emphatically. I put down the dish I am scrubbing and turn to you perched on the barstool across the counter from me “Why do you ask?” I say, fearing I may have made you feel like a burden in some way.
You look out the window, and off into your mind say, “I am just thinking about the kind of dad I want to be someday.” After a few moments you turn back to me “like making breakfasts like papa does when he’s home and you need some extra sleep. I want to do things like that.”
Really, at six you’re thinking about this? My perceptive, empathic child.
I get a big hug from you around my big belly, and a knowing look of love and gratitude for the baby brother you’ve been longing for all these years too, and off you go again outside to your adventures.
You would be 3 1/2 my sweet boy. I have no pictures of these days and years I would have had with you. No memories to try to cherish and hold onto. Just 9 months in my belly and that one day, when you lay peaceful and breathless in my arms, when I could hardly breath. I would give anything to have you now, even to have that one day when I got to hold and memorize you, terrible and exquisite as that day was. My heart still aches beyond measure to know you my love.
Who would you be now? Quiet and kind-hearted as your big sister? Energetic and empathic as your big brother? Wild and delightful as your little sister? I can only daydream of who you would be, knowing full well you’d be something all your own entirely. Oh and that hurts, so deeply, to not know and to wonder. To have conceived and formed and grown you to fullness, to empty my womb when emptying is meant to bring life, only to tell you goodbye, still, always, leaves me hurting and longing.
My love is so big and full for you, even as I grasp to remember the details of you, details that are nothing to the joy it would be to hold you breathing in my arms, run and play a game of chase with you, read stories that delight your mind and talk with you about who you dream to become. Our family is big and growing, but always incomplete without you. I yearn for heaven to know you.
Kiss my son for me dear Jesus, play and run and talk and be with him, delight in him and cherish him, and please tell him he is loved beyond measure, each and every day until I am able to say it with you.
Thank you, for each of them my Lord.